I was skeptical about the plan to hold a daily news chat (using the amazing, excellent, can’t say enough good things about it Cover it Live software) on our site every weekday for an hour and a half, hosted by our senior writer, George.
My main reservation – and forgive me George and Jack (semi-co-host) who may or may not read this – was the fact that we killed a daily newscast because it took too much time to do. For those two, a daily 90 minute chat would be even more of a time suck than our newscast ever was. But bless their cotton socks, they still wanted to try this.
My other reservation was the Troll Factor. The fellas have high hopes of our endeavour being a place for good discussion on the news topics of the day. A sort of coffeehouse conversation that the town mayor, or city council member may stop in to from time to time. As the longtime (and often long-suffering) admin of our forums and moderator of our story comments, I also know that the town crank might also show up and get everyone all riled up.
So it was with some trepidation that I got on board with the plan.
I’m happy to say that we’ve been doing the chat for two weeks now and it’s exceeded even my curmudgeonly expectations. We have had a troll or two, but because of Cover it Live’s method of previewing comments before they go live, we’re able to respond to them or squash them if we need to. But for the most part, the discussion topics have ranged from downtown improvement (a hot topic actually, requiring a couple days devoted to it), wind energy, the big State Fair move and other local stuff. It’s turning out to be exactly what George and Jack hoped for.
There’s been a learning curve though. Some things we’ve learned:
Our numbers have astonished us. For a small paper, we’re averaging about 75 unique readers a day, with 75% of them sticking around longer than a minute. Replays are growing each day as well.
Our newsroom is watching the chat every day as well. We learned that discussion generated in the chat led to some story ideas for reporters when they were in a budget meeting.
We also learned that our session on the local Downtown Business Improvement District issue caused one councilman to cast a ‘No’ vote on the issue after seeing the discussion.
Those two reasons alone make me reverse my position on the whole thing. I’m excited about it, all the way now Next week we will have a Senator in to discuss renewable energy and Nebraska’s Safe Haven law, and in April, we managed to get the governor to agree to join us. Very exciting!
I work as the Web Editor and Social Media Coordinator for the Grand Island Independent, in Nebraska, which is owned by the Omaha World Herald.
~ Journalism allows its readers to witness history; fiction gives its readers an opportunity to live it. ~ John Hersey
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